Today I received news of a friend’s death.
Yet another friend gone. It hurts, but that’s the painful part of life.
Once again, I was forced to confront the reality of my own mortality.
Yeah, I know everyone dies, but you see, it’s not just the death that bugs me. It’s the thought of dying childless and not being immortalized through another human being. That, I must admit, freaks me out, not because of the actual death itself, but how my society and culture would treat me when I die.
My friend left a daughter, so that’s okay. It’s evidence that she once lived and her existence is somehow perpetuated through her child.
On the other hand, if I died today, I’d probably be remembered by my mom, siblings, nieces and a few friends that I impacted in an exceptional way. Since none of my nieces inherited my features, there’d be no-one to say “Oh, she’s so much like her aunt,” or “wow, her aunt lives through her!” I’d just become a memory in their minds, with static paraphernalia like photographs and the items I once owned to remind them of me.
Everyone else would say a few sad words, get on with their lives and forget about me. My real friends would probably have occasional moments of sadness when they’d miss me, but by and large they’d recover and get on with their lives.
My social media friends would probably miss me for a bit, be put off by the inactivity on my pages and accounts, and move on to more lively, interactive and interesting things. Once in a while, someone would stumble upon something I wrote and either buy the book, quote a few lines, use it for reference or like the page then move on.
However, if I had a child, that human being I’d have brought into the world would surely remember me. S/he would somehow be a stamp of permanence, evidence that I once lived and a continuation of my lineage…
I’ve observed how my deceased father has been perpetuated through his children and their offspring. His genes are particularly dominant, as though it’s nature’s way of compensating for his early departure. When I see his features in my nieces, I always think to myself “this is nature’s greatest compliment to my dad and a preservation of his legacy through their beauty, a permanent mark of his existence that transcends generations.”
I would like that too, even if it’s through one or two children – so they’d better look like me!
That’s just one reason, but there’s another gross and macabre one, which is tied to my culture.
You see, our society is generally cruel to unmarried women without children. We are insulted both in life and death. During our lifetime we are treated as outcasts and failures, women who have been unsuccessful at the only natural, biological act that is expected of them. Admitting that one has no children after the age of 25 (to be conservative) in my society is almost always met with the unspoken question “what’s wrong with you?”
Heartrending but true.
As if that’s not enough, the burial rites in my culture are different for childless and single women (and men). If I died single, and childless, I’d be buried with a rat. Can you imagine? Of all deplorable animals, the ancestors or whoever came up with that bizarre burial ritual chose a rat! A creepy and despised rodent that is of no use to society. Can you imagine a greater insult than that?
To make matters worse, I’m told the rat is stuffed into the woman’s vagina as though in a final but permanent, gross, morbid sexual act.
It’s like saying, in a rather twisted way, “you didn’t get a husband while you were living but here’s one for eternity.” Gross!
The thought of decomposition is bad enough, but honestly, rotting in marital union with a rodent is grotesque to say the least.
I’m told the rat is to appease the spirit of the deceased, who would have died with an unsated sexual appetite, to prevent the single person from coming back to earth as a succubus (female) or incubus (male) – those sexually predatory spirits that prey on people in their sleep. Can you imagine that? A disgruntled rogue ghost, roaming the earth and raping innocent souls to make up for the unspent sexual appetite that was never satisfied during the person’s lifetime.
Well, I’m kind in life and don’t imagine I’d be cruel in death but clearly the architects of the burial ritual, in their ghoulish imagination, did not think it should be applied on a case by case basis so it’s universal to my clan.
My solution to these two potential problems posed by my inevitable exit from planet earth are simple.
I have decided to guard against my legacy dying with me and have a child. That’s a simple solution to the first problem that my death would bring.
On the second matter, I have decided that I will not jump into marriage unless I meet the right person, but since the happily ever after is not guaranteed, to avoid the gross and insulting burial of a posthumous marriage to a rat, I shall clearly outline in my will, that this cultural practice should not be applied in my case, otherwise I will certainly rise from the dead and haunt the soul who administers the rat on me!
Hope this adequately addresses the problem of my perpetuity and spares me from the final insult of a gross burial with a rat!